Survey from 24 countries reveals that many adults still lack basic ICT knowledge

The Survey of Adult Skills conducted by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is the first international attempt to assess adults’ aged 16-65 skills in three domains: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. These skill groups are considered as “key information-processing competencies” necessary to perform work tasks as well as to fully participate in social and civic life.

The study reveals important findings in what regards the use of ICT by adults at work and in their everyday life. Across the countries involved in the study, large populations still lack basic ICT skills or have no computer experience such as the ability to use a mouse, scroll through text or a web page.

  • This number ranges from as little as just 7% in the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to up to 23% or higher in Italy, Korea, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.
  • Only between 2.9% and 8.8% of adults surveyed demonstrate the highest level of proficiency in the problem solving using ICT tools Sweden being at the forefront.
  • There is also a relation seen between the three skill groups: people scoring higher in literacy and numeracy in most cases also score better in problem solving using ICT.

The findings also suggest that there are adults who simply lack confidence in their ability to use computers which appears to be due to the infrequent use of technologies. Comparing younger adults with seniors, youngsters have higher proficiency in using ICT in most countries.

  • Yet, only around 51% of 16-24 year-olds score at the second highest level in the given scale meaning that there are still small proportions of young people across the countries who feel fully confident about their knowledge to use ICT and computers in all situations.
  • In the group of 55-65 year-olds Americans, Australians, Swedish, Canadians, the Dutch and seniors from England/Northern Ireland show the highest capabilities in problem solving with ICT.

The fact that there is still a reasonably high proportion of adults with limited or no ICT skills in many countries suggest that governments should reconsider some aspects of policies relating to digital economy and in particular to e-government and online access of public services. The study proposes a number of recommendations for policy improvements in the context of education, labor market, tax regulations, social situations and more.

Data was collected by surveying 166, 000 adults in 24 countries and sub-national regions: Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom (England and Northern Ireland), the United States, Cyprus and the Russian Federation.

Please see the full report here: OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills